Legal History

The study of law and history at NYU Law has deep roots. The Legal History Colloquium is the longest-running legal history workshop in the country, and the Samuel I. Golieb Fellowship Program, which produces leading entry-level academics, is the oldest legal history fellowship program in the United States. The Law School's legal history program also continues to grow and evolve; NYU is one of the few law schools today to offer non-US legal history.

The core law and history faculty include Professors Daniel Hulsebosch, William Nelson '65, and John Phillip Reid.

Nelson pioneered research into early American county court records as sources of legal and social history. His research interests are legal history in colonial America and legal history in New York. His newest book, Fighting for the City, is a history of New York City's legal department. He is also writing a multivolume history of colonial American law. Nelson teaches the Golieb Research Colloquium, the Legal History Colloquium, and the Colloquium on Legal and Constitutional History.

Reid’s research areas include the history of Anglo-American liberty and the legal history of the North American fur trade. His books cover a wide range of subjects. He has written two judicial biographies of 19th-century state judges, two books on the tribal law of the Cherokee nation, and nine books dealing with various legal and constitutional aspects of the American Revolution. Reid teaches the Golieb Research Colloquium and the Colloquium on Legal and Constitutional History.

Hulsebosch specializes in imperial legal history. His scholarship ranges from early modern England to the 19th-century United States. Throughout his work, he explores the relationships among migration, territorial expansion, and the development of legal institutions and doctrines. His 2005 book Constituting Empire: New York and the Transformation of Constitutionalism in the Atlantic World, 1664-1830 examines the intersection of constitutionalism and imperial expansion in the British Empire and early United States by focusing on New York between 1664 and 1830. He is currently researching the development of American legal culture in the two generations after the American Revolution. He teaches American Legal History and the Legal History Colloquium.

Several other faculty have a strong and abiding interest in history, particularly in constitutional tradition. Professors Barry Friedman, David Golove, Helen Hershkoff, Roderick Hills Jr., Deborah Malamud, and Richard Pildes draw on a historical perspective to deepen students’ understanding of the evolution of the law. And law students can take up to 10 credits from NYU’s history department and study with professors such as Lauren Benton and Jane Burbank, who specialize in legal history. Students may pursue a joint JD/PhD, conditional on being admitted to each program independently.

At the heart of the Legal History Program is the Legal History Colloquium. Taught by Hulsebosch, Nelson, and Reid, its mission is unique: the training of young scholars rather than the testing of ideas of senior professors. The core of the Legal History Colloquium consists of the Samuel I. Golieb Fellows, a group of two or three graduate students chosen each year from schools around the United States who attend the Legal History Colloquium each week and present their own work in the colloquium. Other participants have included JD students and graduate students at NYU, Fulbright Scholars from Europe, and faculty from the Law School and other law schools in the metropolitan region.